Dear Problem Lady

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This year our wonderful tomato plants have not produced as usual. The plants themselves are spindly, and the tomatoes sparse. Can you pinpoint a cause? The soil is full of manure and compost.
2018 has been a tough year – a cold spring, dry early summer, and then heavy hard rains. One could guess that while your plants did get plenty of sun in June and July, in late July and early August they lacked as much sun as they needed – 8 hours a day. However, my guess is still with the earlier drought. Tomatoes need pretty constant moisture (but not swampy conditions – good drainage is essential). Their roots are somewhat deep, so the watering should be deep. If the roots do not get enough water, the flowers burn up before they can produce. You might enjoy this website written by tomato aficionados: tomatoville.com.

Our daylilies in pots bloomed, but not as well as usual. They seem compacted. Can I divide them this late in the year?
Yes. Daylilies should go into the ground with enough time before first frost to establish a strong root system, 4-6 weeks before the first hard frost. If you live in a northern region, you may have missed the boat and should probably wait until spring to divide. However, in this warmer region, now might be the perfect time to divide. First trim off the tops of the foliage with pruning sheers, then dig up the whole root ball and divide each into smaller clumps with a knife. Replant in prepared soil 12 or more inches apart.

We need to screen our back garden view – can you suggest a tall perennial that blooms at the end of the summer?
You could try Plume Poppy (Latin name is Macleaya cordata). It is 5 to 8 feet tall, has large scalloped leaves and grows in sun or part shade. It has a lacy look. It spreads somewhat vigorously – a defect.

You could also try Persicaria, featured in the October 2018 Fine Gardening (Persicaria amplexicaulis, commonly known as Mountain Fleece). It typically grows in a dense leafy mound to 3-4’ tall (sometimes to 6’) and as wide. Tiny, rose-red to white flowers bloom June to September (occasionally to first frost) on narrow, pencil-thin, long-stalked spikes.

 The Capitol Hill Garden Club convenes public meetings again on September 18 at the NE Public Library, corner of Maryland Ave. & 7thSt. NE. Our meetings are free and open to the public. Refreshments begin at 7:15 pm with sweet and savory treats and a chance to chat. Guest speaker Kevin Smith, Maryland Natural Resources Director, will discuss restoration and resiliency of DC area wetlands. Membership details: capitolhillgardenclub.org.